Members of the CNMI Workforce Investment Agency joined the Rotary Club of Saipan during the club’s meeting at the Hyatt Regency Saipan yesterday to introduce and share the mission of the fairly new Apprenticeship State Expansion program.
Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente led a group that included WIA director Frances Torres and program manager Joe Villacrusis, as well as Colleen Diaz and Lanie Kay Cruz, to tell Rotary members about how the program can meet local employment needs.
Villacrusis and Torres noted that the Apprenticeship State Expansion program has been one of the most used and favored work program in the United States for several years, and is fairly new to the CNMI, having been in operation for only three years.
Torres said that, as people retire, there is a need to fill those vacancies and the Apprenticeship State Expansion is a way to help grow and upscale employees to fill those future vacancies.
Villacrusis said he has heard it said that there are no available workers on the islands, but in reality there are individuals who want to work but have no proper education or the certification needed to fill certain vacant occupations. He noted that the federally-funded Apprenticeship State Expansion program is not only beneficial to those looking for certification in a particular occupation, but it is also beneficial to employers who want to build an upscale workforce and a solid timeline of certified workers.
Villacrusis also cited the partnership between the Northern Marianas Technical Institute and the Northern Marianas College in providing certain classes that apprentices will need to take. The timeline of the program itself is around two to four years and “so it’s almost as if they are going to college but working at the same time.”
Villacrusis said that if a business is registered with them, the apprenticeship program will ultimately be customized by apprentice’s employers and any needed assistance would be given to the employers in the process. Upon graduation, apprentices will receive certification from the U.S. Department of Labor.
The club meeting was also attended by visiting U.S Rotarians Brett Doney from the Rotary Club of Great Falls Montana and Gynii Gillian from the Coeur d’ Alene Rotary in Idaho, alongside with guests Victor Garza of the Alice Rotary Club in Alice Texas, and Delaney Luna from Washington, D.C.